Tuesday, September 30, 2014

on leaving and starting...

for the last four and half years jani and i have been involved with a local body here in canton, oh called lovecanton. in that time we had been given the opportunity to be leaders of a missional community that we started thus giving us a position of leadership in the church.

years ago, shortly before jani and i were married, i finally submitted to the fact that God had put a call on my life as a shepherd of His sheep, a pastor in the truest sense of the word. this realization led me to journey to bangalore, india for 8 months for ministry training in which every thing i held dear was separated from me (including my new fiance) and i was stripped down to nothing in the midst of a culture that was the furthest thing from what i had grown to find comfort in. it was here that i entered into a broken place in which God could then build a firm foundation upon. those months in india were so very necessary despite the extreme difficulty i faced.

after arriving back home and getting married, jani and i happened upon lovecanton and a leadership who were quick to identify our potential and invest in us. through the years we have come to grow with this young church as we have sought together to truly show this city and its inhabitants the love of Christ. many of the friendships that we have made have been of the kind that will last a lifetime and we are so very fortunate for this amazing community of believers and fellow co-workers in Christ.

during our time in lovecanton i continued attempting to limit my pastoral calling with the idea that i was essentially pastoring a small community (a village) within the structure of lovecanton, and i didnt want all the responsibility of a head pastor anyway. i think God allowed me to continue in this framework to help train me up so i could more readily embrace the real calling He had on my life. over the last year or so jani and i had been feeling led to start something new in Canton. something that Canton was missing. a place that didnt fit into the confines of another ministry, but needed its own space and vision independent of another church. with the help of several others, we will be planting a church hopefully by the end of the year.

lovecanton has changed our lives. the community we have been able to be apart of has been the life and encouragement we needed to really blossom into the people we are today. we love people. that is what is at the heart of what we will be starting. we did not leave lovecanton out of bitterness or unhappiness, but we were called out and hope to continue partnering with lovecanton and many other area churches however we can.

for those from lovecanton who have been in community with us, i hope and pray that as we step out in faith to do this crazy thing that takes me way out of my comfort zone that you will support us or at least understand that this is beyond us. we would have loved to share publicly our vision and be commissioned by you but unfortunately it didnt work out that way. know that we did not want it to seem as though we snuck out the backdoor of lovecanton, trying to leave everyone behind quietly and start with something else. our hearts were very much the opposite. we want to stay in community with those who would still appreciate our friendship. this is not the end of something, but the beginning...

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

evangelism: a better way

i remember trying to figure out the proper ways of evangelism throughout my teenage years. if you grew up in an actively Christian home you know what im talking about: there was the constantly trying to bring up God in most every conversation, there was the plethora of christian tshirts you could would wear with abandon (in regular rotation of course), door-to-door evangelism was always an option, standing downtown holding signs warning of judgment seemed a very practical way to voluntarily be bold and really take a stand while at the same time earning a few extra crowns in the afterlife for suffering via persecution.

i think to some extent many of us tend to still have a negative taste in our mouths when it comes to evangelism because we think of the way it was done 20 years ago. through the years i have realized that we put a lot more on ourselves then we ever needed to when it comes to spreading the gospel.

the first thing we need to realize is that it is not our job to convict the world or judge the world. it is the Holy Spirit's job to convict the world of sin (john 16:7-9) and it's Jesus who will judge the world (2 timothy 4:1). so what's our job? to help bring Heaven to earth which we can now do because of the cross. we effectively help redeem God's creation when we partner with the Holy Spirit and learn to love others as God loves others. its easy to spout off a bunch of verses from the old testamant arguing where God destroyed the wicked, etc. but this is not the God of the new covenant portrayed through the love of Christ. there is now a better way to evangelize, love others.

the only way we can love well is by receiving that love from the Father and essentially allowing that love to spill over onto everyone we encounter. our job is not to scare people into salvation but to love them into right relationship with God, all the while aware of the fact that they are not some project to fix, but a person created in the image God and thus worthy of love.

"18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and [i]He has [j]committed to us the word of reconciliation.
20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." -2 Corinthians 5:18-21

we are called to actively be a part of the ministry of reconciliation. the Holy Spirit prepares the hearts. the Holy Spirit leads the conversations. we are to simply respond in obedience to what the Holy Spirit is leading us to do or say. He is called the counselor for a reason. its time we stopped stepping out in our own plans and agendas for the lost and instead, simply respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit.